If you see a new trail or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing

Bird Droppings August 26, 2022
If you see a new trail or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing

“Choices are sacred to life’s journey. They lie along the path that all of us must follow for ourselves. An important Cherokee lesson is that if you involve yourself in any decision, you also experience the consequences of that decision.” Dr. J.T. Garrett, Meditations with the Cherokee

It has been quite a while since I was in a serious morning routine; walking out first thing in the morning and experiencing the newness of the day this week has been put aside for an ear infection and a few hours extra sleep. Granted being not in the structured routine of school I tend to get lazy from not having to get up. I still get up with my wife at four or so and fix breakfast and her lunch. I exercise each morning and spend time quietly meditating. For some reason, I am up later than usual today. But as we head towards trying to squeeze in a vacation, perhaps after that, I will get back in full swing I may get back in a routine. It has been a wonderful and very wet summer in Georgia, with rain predicted almost every day most of the summer. Afternoons we have a chance of scattered thundershowers, and mowing or yard work gets curtailed while plants and grass dry a bit. Over the weekend and several times this week, I had to stop till rain drops subsided enough that I would not get soaked from my car. It has been nearly eleven summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my doctorate work on a book based on viewing history in more than one color, more than one culture, or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

As I sit here this early morning responding to emails from previous days, I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived. I spoke with a friend at Kroger and recalled the event years back. Many years ago, at a basketball game, several fans were asked nicely to leave by the administration, and eventually, sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with the situation, but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not  make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing), and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior, you continue that adds to the perception of perhaps being out of control. Speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner again fuels the flames of perception; being a person who has ceased to utilize their self-control and being asked quite nicely not to be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.

It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM; that’s behavior modification, by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis, and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about, and there are times now with grandbabies around the house I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. Back to my story, for example, the first offense at a basketball game, and after that, you can come but must wear a dog training collar to reenter the gym. In the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control, they get to press the button, sending a mild shock to your neck. However, if you continue, they also have the increase switch on the side of the control box, raising the voltage. I think some spouses may automatically go to max even for the first jolt.

There is a chance that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent, variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, which might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. Half of the people are sitting and twitching from shocks in the stands, and the other half is quietly smiling and pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games, cheerleaders could cheer, and all would have a wonderful time. However, had everyone read the first line of the first quote today, none of this would be necessary.

“When you see a new trail or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology, I use the lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a previous graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and act only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo), and in the other, a leopard gecko (Emily). One is an amphibian, and the other is a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and my classes during the school year, those that work through the lesson will remember, which is far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture; they followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity, and how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

Far too often, we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail, as Uncheedah speaks about. We only want the status quo, the peace, and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given period. Let us get from point A to point B and never venture off the track again. 

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So often, I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them, and many do not even do that and shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care. So many people follow, and media and corporate advertising feed on this. I wonder when I read a statement from someone who says this is what I believe, and you cannot change that about any subject matter or idea.

We should teach children to challenge, question, and never accept an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and, on occasion, pointed out an error in discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using and other sources. A year later, he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class with the same slide same response. He again pointed out the error, and the teacher was still teaching the same, still in error, and had never changed that slide. By chance, three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared; this time, his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, she was a poor learner. It was difficult for the “teacher” to accept a “student’s” understanding of a topic, albeit that student’s brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years, so it was not simply a student spouting off; there was experiential, contextual knowledge involved.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing schoolwork. So often, teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill; homework, for example, do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment? If not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers, but so often, this happens, and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue. It is no wonder so many students soon learn who is doing homework and copy that person’s work to get credit for homework. 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

When you apply a piece of knowledge, it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, or something to forget. In some subjects, it is difficult to make ideas applicable; at least, this is what some teachers think, and students soon grow weary, and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who, in teaching history, would occasionally dress as a knight or king or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

To instill curiosity, a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the school’s operation, a truly democratic school. As I mentioned recently, the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example. Many years ago, Socrates would ask a question, and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers, and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

This is an excellent place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering, and wondering where the day may go, what will be said, and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and hearts and always give thanks for all namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: